If he's not remembered, it's like he never was.
"Somebody once said that a society can be judged based upon how they treat the dead. If a people have no respect for the dead, you can bet there is little or no respect for the living there either. "
It is the pledge of each of us who enter into a research project dedicated to the war dead to ensure that the names of every fallen man and woman in The Book of Remembrance in every town and village are never forgotten. To confirm that they are more than just a name etched in the cold stone on a village War Memorial. That they were living souls who once walked among us, breathed the same sweet country air we do each day of our lives, were loved and loved in return, they laughed with us and they shared our tears.
Sadly, we were left to shed our tears alone at the communiqué of their terrible death.
First, the gentle tap at the door, the village vicar with the message that shattered our lives for ever. The constable delivers the hand written telegram in a plain brown envelope, the postman slips the obligatory letter from his commander through the door, and then a letter from The King, 'I join with my grateful people in sending you this memorial of a brave life given for others...' A box with his medals arrives through the mail slot. And finally the letter to say our loved one will not be returned to us for burial. Our world disintegrates around us.
This scenario was played out in the homes of over 9-million men in The Great War, 1-million in World War II. Sadly, it continues to this day. There's something in human nature that demands the dignity of burial by one's loved ones. But what if there is no body to bury?
Private Frank Towe, a Barrow family man who left behind his young wife and baby girl was one whose remains have never been identified. He along with thousands of his comrades are remembered on war memorials across several continents as those men whose last resting place is known only to God.
That was the tragedy of The Great War. Recovery was a grime task. Tens of thousands of the war dead were never recovered because they were now part of the soil, amalgamated into the thick glutinous mud spread across the deadly battlefield. Specialists sifted through thousands of square miles for bodies or their parts - some consisting of nothing more than a tiny bone the size of a twig, a small piece of human flesh - something that might identify the dead men. A dark brown pool of blood slowly sinking into the decaying soil or shifting sand may be all that remained of someones son, brother, uncle, husband or father. Many still remain buried in the shifting sands of a great desert or deep in the blue seas that surround us.
In most cases, nothing was ever found of our soldiers, sailors or airmen.
Fortunately for many families their loved ones did return. They were among the hundreds and thousands who came to mourn their fallen pals and joined with friends and family to lay their loved one to rest in the peaceful village cemetery and place flowers on the soft green grass they called home.
I never knew any of the ninety men whose names are etched in stone on the Barrow-upon-Soar War Memorial, only of their cause and their sacrifices - like so many brave men and women the world over who have served their country and those who fought and died.
This site is dedicated to those men and women who fell fighting for their country. It is also dedicated to those they left behind, the innocent casualties of war; family and friends, the courageous women of our towns ans villages who endured the heartbreak of their loved ones in harms way, and those who served in a civilian capacity.
It is dedicated to those of us who have experienced the anguish of war in our own personal way, the thousands of men and women, the survivors, who 'served our country' and came home. We won't forget, we can't forget.
It is also dedicated to the serving men and women of all nations who protect us from harm and guarantee our right to liberty, justice and freedom for all.
We will remember them ... This is what makes them real to us. It says they were, that they existed and remain in our hearts and prayers for ever.
Ralph William Bowles - July 2008
If I should die and leave you here awhile,
Be not like others, sore and undone,
Who keep long vigils by silent dust and weep.
For my sake - turn again to life and smile
Nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do
Something to comfort other hearts than thine.
Complete those dear unfinished tasks of mine
And I, perchance, may therein comfort you.
Barrow-upon-Soar War Memorial - February 2009
War Memorial watercolour by Ian Cawood - Commissioned and owned by R. W. Bowles